Failed medication abortion & surgical abortion

Note: The Exhale Pro-Voice After-Abortion Stories Hub includes people’s stories of their experiences and emotions, exactly as they have written them in. We do not edit these stories at all, and the content that follows this message is exactly as we received it. We know that people’s experiences are complex, and these stories reflect the many emotions they may be feeling after their abortions. From relief to grief, and everything in between, and all at the same time, we’re here for you.

Submitted by: Jenny

My experience started, like many others, one week after my missed period. I was 5 weeks pregnant with my boyfriend of four years. I am 33, employed, a cat mom, but not settled in life where I want to be. After seeking options and education from Planned Parenthood, we mutually decided to get an abortion.

I was scheduled for a medication abortion about two weeks later, at week 7. I was nervous about what was to happen and what my experience would be like. I read hundreds of testimonials online from other women to put my mind at ease. The entire appointment lasted about three hours. We paid $700 up front for the service.

I was first called back alone for a urine sample and a vaginal ultrasound. The technician asked if I wanted to see the pictures or want to know if there were multiples. I said yes. It was just one embryo and didn’t look like anything other than a jelly bean on the picture. It was quick, only about 1-2 minutes and did not hurt.

Next, I was brought into a counseling session where I was asked if I was there on my own free will and a few other medical questions. Then, they allowed my boyfriend to come back. They walked us both through what was to happen, when it would happen, what it would look like, and emergency information. She took a blood sample from a finger poke which didn’t hurt.

Next, a physician came in. Asked if I had any other questions. I was most concerned about the tissue and what to do with it. She said, it was so early, I wouldn’t see anything. I then took the first pill there in the office and she sent us on our way with the other medications. All were clearly marked for pain, cramps, nausea, and abortion. I felt confident, prepared, and I rested that night not feeling any changes to my body.

Exactly 24 hours later, I took the second dose of abortion pills, two in each side of my cheeks. They dissolved for 30 minutes and I swallowed the rest. They didn’t taste like anything, mostly like cardboard. Then I waited. I stayed on top of pain medications never knowing when the cramps would kick in. It took four hours before I felt my first moderate cramp, pain level 4. It came with some bleeding that looked like my normal period. 30 minutes later, the cramps became intense and bleeding was heavy. I don’t get period cramps so pain level at this point was an 8-9. These cramps remained strong, reaching pain level 10… even 11 at times (at which I broke into tears and my boyfriend had to carry me to the bathroom). I found some relief sitting on the toilet. There I passed a large clot. I didn’t feel it coming out, it didn’t hurt, it just plopped out. It was mostly flat, about the depth of a pancake and the circumference of a lime. There was so much blood, I couldn’t tell what it was, if it had any pregnancy tissue, or if it was tissue from the sides of my uterus. It was just a dark, red, blob.

After 4.5 hours of intense cramps, fluctuating temperature (I ended up with my top off while my boyfriend held an ice pack on the back of my neck), writhing in pain on the couch with a heat compress on my abdomen, the cramps finally started to cease. Cramps continued for the next 5 hours, but much more mild and spread out. Pain level 3-4. I assumed the clot from earlier was the pregnancy, and the worst of it was over. Some relief.

For the next 5 days, I bled. It was fresh blood, like the first day of your period. I also felt BLAH, like I came down with the flu. Food was not appetizing, I was severely constipated, and I was nauseous. Finally on day 6, my body caught up and I found major relief from pregnancy constipation and the bleeding trailed off and was mostly spotty.

Early day 7, intense cramping woke me up from sleep. I was bleeding heavily again with fresh blood. I sat on the toilet where I passed a large clot, bigger than before. It was about the depth of a pancake, but the circumference of a lemon. Pain level 7-8. 30 minutes later, I passed a second clot just slightly smaller. 30 minutes after that, the bleeding became lighter and the cramping had dissipated. Day 8, the same thing happened when I was woken up by cramps, and passed one more clot.

Instantly, I felt like I turned a corner. Bleeding became lighter and lighter and essentially stopped by day 12. I finally felt like the old me, no pain, no flu symptoms, I had energy, I felt great, and I felt RELIEF.

Day 14, exactly two weeks after taking the first pill, I went back to PP for my follow up ultrasound. I assumed it would be routine, I even told my boyfriend not to come because it would be easy (though he didn’t listen). I did a urine sample and went to the ultrasound room. We chatted as she began my vaginal scan and quickly became quiet. It lasted longer than my previous scan and the she said “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re still pregnant.”

After asking if she was joking, if it was just tissue, was their a heartbeat?, looking over every ultrasound picture, and about one million other questions, I was in disbelief. It was like starting from the beginning, back at week 5. Just complete disbelief. I wouldn’t have believed her if I didn’t see the scans.

PP physicians explained it was extremely rare, between 2-6%. They weren’t allowed to say there was a heartbeat, but they confirmed, it appeared there was cardiac movement. They explained there isn’t much research on what abortion drugs can do to a developing embryo but their suggestion was to schedule a surgical abortion. This tore me up. I couldn’t find one testimonial online that was directly relatable to my situation. I felt like it was 50:50 odds. Maybe I do want to have this baby? Is it fair to bring a child into this world who will have a lifetime of struggles from birth defects? Those and every other scenario played in my head for the next week. After much debate, we decided a surgical abortion was the best thing to do for our situation.

My surgical abortion was scheduled one week later, now at nearly 11 weeks. PP covered the cost of my surgical procedure because of my first, failed abortion. This was a huge weight off my shoulders because the procedure was $1,500.

I was first brought back alone for a counseling session, then my boyfriend joined, they walked us both through the procedure. They took another blood sample from a finger poke. Then I went back to the waiting room until they called my name.

I was beyond terrified. I felt alone. I cried the entire appointment. My boyfriend was there for support, but it wasn’t the same as from a woman. What I needed was support from women. The women who had gone down this same path. I needed to hear the stories of women in my situation.

Soon, I was called back by a man who took me to the recovery room. There, he started a type of IV. It stung. It had a piece of plastic connected where they can insert drugs/draw blood. He had me take an ibuprofen, antibiotic, and then an anti-nausea pill under my tongue. He then assigned me my chair in the recovery room. It had some curtains but not 100% private. There were multiple women in there who just came out of surgery, in various states of consciousness. It was like an assembly line, being handed off from person to person. It felt very impersonal. I felt horrible for the younger girl next to me, who had to be at least 15 years younger, and who must be as terrified as me.

I sat in my chair, crying and shaking, for the next 20 minutes. Then a nurse met me at my chair and walked me to my surgery room. I was trembling so hard she closed to the door to the room, and gave me the biggest mom hug you could ask for. She allowed me to cry on her shoulder and she assured me she, herself, would be there from start to finish. She had me undress from the waist down and sit on the table. She also had me put a preemptive pad in my underwear. The table looked like a normal OBGYN table, except the stirrups were higher, and for your knees. The abortion equipment was covered by paper cloths and all surgical tools were wrapped as well. I found comfort in not seeing surgical tools. The room had a bug surgical light on the ceiling, but other than that, it appeared like a normal office, just bigger. A second nurse helped position me on the table. Before laying me back, she gave me a huge hug and looked me in the eyes to tell me they will take great care of me and she won’t leave my side. She assured me the male anesthesiologist would not see any part of my body and would remain at my head. She strapped my knees into the stir-ups and explained it was just like seatbelts in case I twitch. She then covered me with a paper blanket. At this point, I’m sitting on the bed, butt at the bottom of the table, and legs in the air as if I were sitting in a chair. It slightly helped for me that they had music playing in the room and it seemed less scary.

Next, the anesthesiologist entered the room. He was very matter of fact. I was shaking so much he immediately gave me an injection through my IV port to “take the edge off.” I don’t know if it made a difference but I appreciated it. He then asked if I wanted to be fully out or just drowsy. I chose fully sedated, 100% lights out. He then explained the three sensors he attached to my upper chest and side to monitor my vitals. He put a sensor on my finger and oxygen through a tube on my nose. None of this hurt.

Next the surgeon came in, introduced herself and asked if I had any questions. I said no and she said “okay, we will get started.” I just stared at the ceiling and didn’t look as the anesthesiologist administered two more injections into my port. He told me to start taking deep breaths through my nose. I remember the second nurse putting her hand on my leg as this was happening. Any human touch felt comforting. I remember three breaths before falling asleep.

The next thing I recall was the two nurses sitting me up on the bed. The first nurse had put on my panties and leggings for me. I vaguely recall the vacuum machine being turned off. I had NO PAIN, I was extremely groggy but I knew I didn’t feel bad. I recall saying thank you to the staff still in the surgical room. The nurses walked me back to recovery with my eyes closed and sat me down in my chair. It was suddenly very bright and I grabbed sunglasses from my purse and put them on. A new recovery nurse asked if I wanted juice, water, saltines or graham crackers. I didn’t care, I wanted to sleep. I was more concerned if she could kick back my chair like a recliner. She put a heating pad on my abdomen while I dozed. From getting up from my chair to go to surgery to coming back to recovery was about 20 minutes total. I was no longer trembling, scared, or panicked.

About 10 minutes later, the IV nurse took a blood sample from my port. I was groggy I didn’t care and didn’t feel it. I was the only woman in the recovery room who had a blood draw. 20 minutes later, the recovery nurse asked me to get up and go to the bathroom. It felt similar to waking up in the middle of the night and having to go to the bathroom. Still groggy, but a little more with it. There, I passed a decent sized clot and was bleeding a moderate amount. I went back to my chair and rested my eyes.

At this point in recovery, other women were allowed to leave. Considering my failed abortion, a nurse said they needed to do additional tests for me. She helped me put on shoes and walked me to an ultrasound room.

A lead surgeon also attended the ultrasound and later, my abortion surgeon also asked to join the review. All three reviewed the scan as I bled all over the table and floor. They were not phased at all and said their only concern was my health. They checked and rechecked the scan quietly, which had me concerned. I thought for sure it didn’t work and I was going to have to go back into surgery. Finally, the lead surgeon said the scan appeared clear.

She then sat down in front of me and explained they had one more complication in my case. Both surgeons reviewed my tissue after the abortion and it was odd. She said there was “a lot of pregnancy tissue but the embryo was not normal.” She told me the embryo had died. She estimated it died at least one week prior, but sometime after my ultrasound one week prior. Had I not had a surgical abortion, she said it was likely I would have miscarried but it came with risks of going septic, especially since my body wasn’t able to expel tissue the first go around.

She ordered my bloodwork and asked me to come back one week post-op for a blood draw. I was then allowed to clean myself, put my pants on, and leave.

I felt nothing leaving, maybe due to the drugs, but I just felt empty. Physically, I felt no pain. That part was remarkable in my mind. My total appointment lasted 2 hours 45 minutes.

I put on fresh sheets before I left that morning, and nothing felt better than coming home, putting on pajamas, and climbing into bed. I rested the rest of the day with very minimal pain. It wasn’t even pain, it was just sore muscles, like I worked out really hard. I still took Ibuprofen as a precaution.

I am now on day 2 post surgical abortion. I’m still bleeding but have no pain, just sore. Bleeding is light to moderate, like a normal period. I only really expel blood when standing or sitting on the toilet.

Emotionally, surgical abortion was overwhelming. Physically, it was without a doubt less painful. That being said, before, during, and after, I sobbed. I hyperventilated at times not knowing exactly what was upsetting me. My emotions ranged from sadness, guilt, shame, feeling like my privacy was gone, being irresponsible, lonely and stupid. Mostly, sadness. I felt no sense of relief like I did with a medication abortion.

My hope is that by sharing my story, someone can find comfort in this, much like the big, mom-like hug I received from my nurse before my surgery. If it helps one person, it would greatly relieve the pain I feel. Seeing words of encouragement from other women has helped me feel like I’m not alone. Someone, somewhere out in the world, is rooting for you. You can do this. I am with you.

You deserve nonjudgmental
after-abortion support.

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19 responses to “Failed medication abortion & surgical abortion”

  1. I had a surgical abortion today the lady doctor said I think we got it.. I said think?? She like your very early.
    But I’m
    Pretty sure we did but I want to send you for blood test I’m two days wth
    So confused.. n I still feel like shit..
    I have had abortion in the past n I always feel better once I leave..
    Any advice?

  2. Julia

    Hi all,
    Thank you for this testimony. I had a surgical abortion last week (6 weeks and 1 day along). For some reason the anesthesiologist wasn’t able to come in to put me completely under, so I was sedated but conscious for the procedure. It was traumatizing to say the least. The surgeon felt after the first suction she did not see enough tissue, so she went in to do another round. I was sobbing and shaking. The nurse sedated me again.
    I found out today that based on my blood work, I am still pregnant. Or rather, “there is evidence of a viable pregnancy” with hcg levels increasing from 10k to 30k. I am just so exhausted. They could get me in tomorrow for the procedure but no anesthesiologist. I think I scared the lady on the phone when I said the last time was pretty horrific. The earliest they could get me in for a second procedure with anesthesia is a week from today. I asked if they would do another ultrasound but the she said only if the provider requests it. I want to know what is going on. I might insist on another ultrasound. What does a “viable pregnancy post- surgical abortion attempt” mean anyway? Will the second procedure be more risky? Are there higher chances of infection or lasting damage to the uterus? Will I still be able to have children in the future, when I’m ready?
    I’m grateful for this thread and all your voices. It is comforting to know I am not alone. Thank you.

  3. Monica

    This is what I needed
    Honestly thank you for this
    I had a failed medical abortion at 6 weeks. I’m going for the surgical on Saturday and I’m terrified. I’m feeling all those things you described – guilt, fear, emotions that I dont even know why I’m feeling.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Its good to know someone else is going through it.

  4. Hi,it’s Nessa I had an abortion too two weeks ago and I have been going through terrible cramping ?.
    I hope the surgical abortion surely has worked out.i don’t want to ever do this again.
    To be honest I have grown so much hatred for my boyfriend because of this, I always warned him to be so careful but he always insisted on withdrawal method for birth control.
    Yesterday, I passed out very big blood clot attached to a pregnancy tissue with basically grey liquid and white thread like tissue.
    I always pray that God forgives me and everyone else who has had to go through an abortion for whatever reason.
    Your story is truly heart whelming.

  5. Jess

    I also Took an abortion pill and I was only 4w 5d they told me it’s a 50/50 because I’m so early they can’t see anything no embryo only the bag. They were concerned it was in my tubes. So they did blood work to see if it worked. They told me it FAILED… my levels went up 4k instead of dropping today I had another appointment. I can actually see an embryo. They scheduled me for a aspiration abortion. I am extrémalo scared of pain during the process… I started to question myself what if I just keep this baby? But I don’t want the baby to suffer with disabilities as well. What if this Abby survived for a reason. I am only bleeding lightly only one pad a day. I change it of course by in total I bleed like spotting only brown. When I pee it’s bloody slightly.. I kept calling doctors asking for advice. But I don’t get what I want to hear. They said they’re is risk but also it can always be healthy I don’t know what to dk

    1. J

      Jess, I hope this worked out the way you hoped. You aren’t alone!

    2. What is the outcome can you share? I am in a similar situation

      1. Kelly

        Really needed to read this. Thank you for sharing. It’s hard finding stories like these online. I am currently having a medical abortion, I had taken my second set of pills 24 hours ago and nothing has happened, so I’ll be having to go in to the clinic in a few days. I am feeling all types of things, just mostly frustration because I was really hoping for this to be over as soon as possible. I felt so much relief from being able to do this medical abortion privately and now more feelings are starting to bubble up because it’s not going as I expected.

  6. Catherine

    Your story, especially the hug part, certainly helps. You went through so much. I am so glad you are physically ok, and I send you more hugs, all the hugs ever, for the pain of the memory of this experience. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Stormy

      Thank you for sharing your story. I thought most feel relief but I’m glad a lot are experiencing the empty feeling I am and I’m not alone. Of course I also wish that we all wouldn’t feel empty or in someway heal it. The sharing of the stories like yours is the only healing I’ve found. Thank you

      1. Jenny

        And thank you for sharing your story. I do feel better now, but there are times I am triggered. It comes and goes, and I still am processing my decision and how I feel. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone and it’s not wrong to feel the way we do.

  7. B Mercer

    I am so sorry you went through this!
    Bad enough to have to go through an abortion but two kinds to end one pregnancy. You are probably one of the most courageous people ever…I hope you’re doing ok and yes your story helps others not feel so alone. Thank you with love.

    1. Madee

      I’m scared now that I may be pregnant after the surgical abortion I had last month. It’s my first. I’m still gaining weight

      1. Jenny

        I’m not an expert but from my experience, they knew then and there I was no longer pregnant. It took me a few weeks to start losing weight and feeling like myself, I’m guessing because the hormones can stay in your body for a minute. Xoxo

        1. Ashley

          Hello, I just had my abortion yesterday. I will never do it again. I wouldn’t say it was painful more or less I didn’t cry but I was in the fetal position on the floor with extreme cramping. I didn’t have any large clots only small ones I was only 5 weeks along but reading stories about people having big clots I’m worried it didn’t work. I’ve been very bloated and gassy it’s awful I will never do this again. At least for me I wish I didn’t have to do it.

          1. Stacey

            Hi Ashley,

            I’m having the same issue as you, I’m terrified it didn’t work with very minimal bleeding. Did yours work? Or any follow up issues?

            Jenny I cannot thank you enough for this story. Honestly I cried and felt relief at the same time! Thanks for sharing. I can’t find much online so this has been so helpful

    2. Jenny

      Thank you for the kind comment. I read it back in December but it’s taken me until now to be able to write back. Your kindness made a difference for me.

      1. Anna

        Hi, I’ve had an abortion at 8 weeks.
        3 weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test and they said to retest a week later….. Still positive 5 weeks later. My hcg levels are 3000, I’ve had 3 blood test and they have risen slightly but seemed to have plateaued. I’ve found the whole experience so traumatic, the Dr even told me this is rare she’s only seen this once in her lifetime. The sac seems to still be there but the fetus is not. I’ve got blood test No. 4 tomorrow I really just want them to sort it out ASAP. I’m horrified that the abortion has failed ?

        1. J

          I hope this all worked out the way you wanted Anna. It’s comforting to know I am not alone in my experience. ?

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